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Why Kids Understand Cross-Marketing Better Than You Do

Posted: 12/12/2012 5:20 pm

Quebec City got very animated this week as cartoon professionals from all over the world met for the 2012 Cartoon Connection conference taking place at the Quebec Hilton. The main theme of the conference was to evaluate the benefits and successful execution of transmedia, or cross-platform marketing, for properties in the world of animation.

Cross-marketing itself is not a new phenomenon, but there are many more layers to it in the digital age. I still remember my Partridge Family lunch box. Which I packed while listening to David Cassidy (Keith Partridge) sing "I Think I Love You," and then racing home to watch a new episode of the show on television, the medium which is still mostly the anchor to cross-marketing. Of course today, the Partridge Family Experience would include a mobile app to pick Laurie's clothes, a sing along karaoke dance Xbox game, and even a "Shoot Out Tracy's Tambourine" interactive video.

Ken Faier, president of Nerd Corps, and executive producer of "SlugTerra" presented on the "Creating Brands in the New Digital Age" panel, and concurs that "The kid business has always been transmedia." When his company evaluates any new property (storyline, or show), they always think through the key elements, including the core demographic (most likely a 10-year-old boy, if it's an action game/series), what the "play mechanic" is, what media will be used to advertise to that demographic, and of course the potential retail products associated with the brand. The three key elements to a boy's action game, according to Faier, are collecting, shooting, and battling. These are always kept in mind for this particular genre, once the moral code, or storyline, has been developed.

"But is the core of transmedia just marketing? Or is it getting to a good story?" asked Lori Camm, CBeebies (BBC's kids' programming) Senior Content Producer. She suspects it's a bit of both. "If you've got a good story and good characters, the kids will go to where they are."

Ville Lepisto, animation producer with Rovio, the Finnish company that owns and produced the surprise branding hit, Angry Birds, sees a transmedia strategy as basically telling the same story over and over again, with different media. The recent launch and brand merge between Angry Birds and Star Wars seemed like a natural to Lepisto. "What would be the main cool brand to work with?" he said was the big boardroom question. "Star Wars won, hands down."

The well-known Star Wars story and the well-defined characters helped to establish this property's positioning very quickly. They used Tumblr as their key media content hub, and had a live Google hangout leading up to the release. Keeping their focus on the fans and delivering different content at the same time on different media platforms, where their fans would be, launched the property very successfully with games, toys and other associated merchandise.

But it's not just television production companies and gaming producers that are working across media platforms in an effective way. Eric Huang, New Business /IP Acquisitions Director for the Penguin Children's Group in London, is helping to lead the transformation of traditional publishing into an entertainment company. Starting with Club Penguin, which was the first free online game that kids seemed to know about before their parents did, led them to develop other similar cross media projects such as Moshi Monsters and Skylanders.

Skylanders adventures are previewed in books, prior to coming out in the games, making the books non-linear in a really non-traditional way. With new products and series such as Ollie The Boy Who Became What He Ate, strategies for product launches have changed, right from the development stages, Huang says. "Products are now conceived as cross marketed from the start, not tagged on as an afterthought." For the Ollie series, Penguin is pursuing new distribution channels as well, targeting the educational market and schools, with the distribution of 30,000 multimedia packages to London schools.

So, besides the transmedia strategies, what's the common link between these very different industries? "We're all becoming each other," says Faiers. "The thread is in the storytelling," says Huang. "We will always be publishing good stories." Lepisto agrees. "Once you come up with the story, it's easy to push it to other properties."

Kathy Buckworth was covering the Cartoon Connection as a guest of the conference. Find conference notes at #CartoonConnection. Visit www.cartoon-media.eu for more information.

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  • They Offer Discounts

    The researchers found studies indicating that limited-time sales on individual foods increases consumption because people tend to eat cheap food faster in the hopes of buying it on sale again soon.

  • They Package Big Quantities Together

    When people buy large quantities of one food, they eat more of it, both because they buy more and because it's more visible in their fridge. The same applies for quantity-discount deals: think "Buy Two, Get One Free."

  • They Make Specific Health Claims

    People tend to think that food with one specific health claim -- like the "gluten-free" label on these loaves of bread -- is generally healthy and low-calorie, even if that one claim has nothing to do with a broader measurement of health.

  • They Make Multi-Sensory Ads

    Ads that "evoke multi sensory experiences" tend to make you hungrier than simpler ones.

  • They Make Multi-Colored Foods

    Foods with more than one color or flavor, like these jelly beans, keep you eating longer than more monotonous foods.

  • They Push Large Packages

    Because "large package sizes are typically more profitable for food marketers," they tend to be promoted extra heavily, promoting excess consumption.

  • They Make Profitable Food Conspicuous

    People are more likely to pick food at eye level than at any other.

  • They Encourage Snacking

    The amount of calories people eat at dinner has actually declined since 1978 -- but the amount of calories consumed while snacking has doubled, largely thanks to efforts aimed at encouraging the practice.

  • They Take Advantage Of Our Inability To Judge 3D Shapes

    We're not very good at judging the relative sizes of 3D objects -- so that means that food marketers get away with jumbo-sizing 3D vessels like cups and bowls more easily than they get away with up-sizing 2D objects like plates.

  • They Climate Control

    People are generally more likely to overeat in moderate temperatures than they are in extreme heat or cold -- so much so that "it has been argued that obesity could be linked to the reduction in the variability in ambient temperature brought about by air conditioning."

  • They Dim The Lights

    Studies show that people tend to linger over meals in restaurants with dim lighting, encouraging them to order dessert and extra drinks.


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